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Has commercial driven game shooting reached a watershed?

Robin Scott asks the question ... Is commercial driven game shooting in the UK reaching a watershed, or has it already been reached?

Braced up pheasants

Hanging shot birds on a gate or rail for collection is better than putting them in the back of a truck

We all know the price paid by game dealers for shot birds has been historically low for many seasons, and maybe it always has been. Back in Victorian times the saying went: “Up goes a guinea, bang goes a penny, down comes sixpence.” However there’s now a new twist to things.

Game dealers dictating terms

This year some dealers – while continuing to take and process pheasant and partridges from estates – are dictating terms like never before. In my neck of the woods a number are only taking the bag if it’s “free of charge” while others are actually billing shoots up to 25p per bird to ensure the carcases go into the food chain.

Pals around the country report similar arrangements. I only heard three say their dealers were “taking game as usual” by paying a small fee. I would like to hear what the situation is in your part of the world.

The apparent situation suggests two things: there’s still (thankfully) a home and export market out there for the consumption of healthy game, but we could be reaching saturation point with the number of birds now being shot.

And if the latter’s the case, the ramifications for commercial shooting are immense. So too the laudable conservation message built around it, and the employment it brings to rural communities.

Nobody can deny that shooting continues to grow in popularity, and long might the trend continue. Yet while there’s safety in numbers, the sport needs to take care it doesn’t kill the goose that lays the proverbial golden egg. More shooters mean more birds in the bag. And if we’re now starting to struggle to process what we kill for public consumption, what does that hold for the future?

Sir Ian Botham

Sir Ian Botham’s ideas should be encouraged

Sir Ian’s Botham’s initiative should be encouraged

We need to create more initiatives of the kind recently launched by Sir Ian Botham: turn game into oven-ready meals that can be given to needy families in our communities. Instead of being pilloried by the liberal elite as a “rich man, poor man” gesture, guys like him should be encouraged, not censured.

Of course big bag commercial shoots – and how they operate – aren’t the be all and end all of sport in the UK. We need to constantly remind critics that countless more thousands of acres are shot every weekend by individuals and small syndicates where the bag is split among the Guns and beaters, the remainder being given to families and elderly in the locality. As it always has been.

In the great scheme of things commercial shoots, thank goodness, are still in a minority where overall shooting activity in the countryside is concerned. Yet it’s how they respond to market challenges that might determine all our long term futures.

Don’t blow it.